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Report: Utilities Need to Get Aggressive on Tree Trimming

FERC report finds that more aggressive tree trimming would have gone a long way toward mitigating the widespread power outages that occurred in Connecticut in last October’s freak snow storm.

A joint report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation finds that additional tree trimming would have gone a long way toward mitigating the widespread power outages that occurred in Connecticut .

According to the report (see attached PDF), 74 transmission lines and 44 transmission substations in the Northeast experienced outages in the bizarre storm which on the region . The bulk of the damage, however, was to local distribution lines when trees and branches fell on wires.

Altogether in storm — .

"Nearly three quarters of the transmission line outages occurred when healthy trees, most located outside of utility rights-of-way, fell onto the lines uprooted by the weight of the snow compounded by the soft, wet ground," a NERC press release announcing the report's findings states.

In addition to carrying out more aggressive tree trimming, the report recommends that the state's utilities revise their tree trimming policies and create more detailed reporting of "vegetation-caused outages."

The report suggests that utilities take into account growth rates of trees when installing new transmission lines — and identifying species of trees that either grow quickly and/or are more likely to fall.

Perhaps more important, the report recommends that utilities with , state regulators, and local town governments to located outside of rights of way.

In response to the report, The Connecticut Congressional Delegation issued the following statement:

“We were deeply troubled and frustrated by two major power disruptions in as many months, which wreaked havoc on the lives of our constituents, and called on FERC to investigate the reliability of Connecticut’s electric system," said state Senate and House leaders who issued the statement. "This important investigation by FERC and NERC has resulted in recommendations that must be taken seriously to ensure Connecticut residents and businesses will not find themselves in a similar situation again."

"Some of the report confirms what we already knew — such as downed trees were the leading cause of outages — but also makes clear utility companies need to be more vigilant to ensure a debacle like last fall is not repeated," the elected leaders said. "We urge CL&P and Northeast Utilities to work with the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to ensure trees and other vegetation are better maintained to reduce the severity of future power outages.”

CL&P, the state's largest provider of electric power, has already responded to the need for additional tree trimming. According to a March report in , CL&P recently launched an expanded tree work program that includes significantly more routine and enhanced tree trimming across the state.

This year, CL&P plans to spend $53.5 million on tree trimming – an increase of approximately $27 million over 2011, the report states. The expanded tree work is being performed along 4,900 miles of the company’s utility poles and wires, an increase of 1,600 miles.

On May 25, Newtown First Selectman Patricia Llodra, along with Redding First Selectman Natalie Ketcham and Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi to the State of Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority in New Britain regarding the utilities' response to the October storm, as well as Tropical Strom Irene, which hit the state in late August.

Meanwhile the state's new awaits Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's signature.

Al June 05, 2012 at 12:43 AM
Stop that madness ... tree vegitation ,,, they cut trees that not even close to wires and leave once that already surrounding calbes .. Use common scence people...
John June 05, 2012 at 11:15 AM
So true Al. The tree cutting company CLP used in Newtown cut down our Flamingo tree right to the ground and that species would never grow tall enough to even reach the power lines but left all the tall trees over hanging the wires. They just came through and cut down all the saplings that wouldn't pose a threat for 20 years.

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